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Havana Meeting Divides Cubans in Miami

TO Jose Basulto, the perils of leaving Cuba are too often painfully clear: empty rafts, their occupants swallowed by the sea.

Mr. Basulto, co-founder of a search-and-rescue group for Cuban refugees, scoffs at President Fidel Castro's call to exiles to return to Havana for a conference billed as a discussion about Cuban emigration to the United States. ``It's an absolute waste of time,'' he says.

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But other Cuban exiles living in Miami have accepted Castro's invitation to return to Havana to discuss immigration and other issues. The conference began Friday and ended yesterday.

The conference has underscored the divisions in Miami's Cuban exile community among those who oppose any dealings with Cuba while President Castro remains in power, and those who favor a diplomatic approach.

The US Coast Guard says more than 1,100 Cuban rafters have been found this year. Cuban exile groups contend that an equal number may have died at sea.

A spokesman for the Cuban government insisted that Cubans are free to emigrate and don't need to flee the island on rafts.

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